How to create a blog newsletter

newsletter_icon If you’re responsible for producing a newsletter and have reasonable PC skills, why not do it by way of a blog? There’s far more advantages than disadvantages, and although the guidance below looks pretty long it’s not at all hard to do. Once you get into the swing of things you’ll find it actually saves you time.

Read on brave adventurer! And let me know what you think, or if there’s anything I should add, by clicking Comments and including your views.

 Why try it?

Our allotment association had been running a couple of years when I took over the role of Secretary, one of the tasks being to compile the quarterly newsletter. The first was done, as earlier issues, in pdf format. But most effort was taken up getting the content to fit exactly into an even number of pages.

In spite of doing the email equivalent of brow beating association members for articles, it’s often the happy lot of the Secretary to create half the content as well. So anything to make the whole thing more efficient would also help give more time to improving the content.

The first attempt was the Spring 2010 issue, which included a poll asking association members to vote on the new format. With a pretty enthusiastic vote for, the Summer 2010 issue took the same format.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of using a blog to create a newsletter?


  • Formatting is much easier… just copy the content of each article into its own page (the blogger’s term is ‘post’) without any worries over the size of the issue.
  • Photographs can be included with equal disregard about issue size.
  • In fact images to brighten each article up, even where no photos were provided, can be included to make the newsletter much more attractive.
  • You can make the publication much more interactive; readers can…
    • Respond to surveys where the result is updated immediately.
    • Add comments and set up a thread of discussion.
  • Useful links can be included.
  • If you’ve got a big readership you might earn money for your organisation by including adverts.
  • Try including video in your pdf issue! With a blog newsletter it’s easy.
  • You’ll get a wider readership since the web page will be picked up by search engines


  • When you hand over responsibility for producing the newsletter your replacement might not have the skills to continue in the same format.
  • Assumes your readers can access the web and are comfortable doing so.
  • Although you can include a print friendly button the output probably won’t look as good as if a pdf file.
  • For some you just can’t beat reading something in your hands.
  • If you want the newsletter to be around for a long time, will your blog provider also be there when you need them?

How to do it

  • Preparation 
    Firstly set up a new blog account. Do this even if you have your own personal account… at some point you’ll no longer be responsible for producing the newsletter and you need to hand the account over to your replacement. So register the account to a generic email account for your organisation (e.g. info@) and use a password you can hand over.

    If you’ve never created a blog before, don’t worry. It’s really easy… I use Blogger, provided by Google so should be around well into the future. To create a Blogger account click here. It only takes three steps to set up a really attractive blog site.

    Make sure you call the blog something logical… if you combine the name or initials of your organisation along with the issue name, number or date that should do. I’ve called ours hraaspring2010 and hraasummer2010 (hraa being Hill Rise Allotment Association).

    I’d then recommend downloading Windows Live Writer to write your posts. Blogger’s own interface has improved greatly over time, but you just can’t beat the ease of using Live Writer and some of its plug-ins… not only do your posts and keep an archive, but to let you post something really impressive with minimum effort or technical know-how. To download Live Write click here. Part of the set up is to allow Live Writer to identify and download to your blog.

    There are some extra tweaks I’ve put on my version which help make it look more like a standard web site. If you’re interested in trying some of these why not leave me a comment at the foot of this post?

  • Create the publication issue
    For each issue you’ll need to create a separate blog. The first time around it’s easy… setting up the blog account will also set up the first blog.

    If this is the second issue click to Create Blog and go through the same steps you followed when setting up the first blog. Call the blog the next in sequence (hraaautumn2010?). Choose the same template design if you want to keep a consistent theme.

    If you’ve not added any tweaks as mentioned in the previous section that’s all you have to do. If you have added any tweaks then it’s easiest to copy the HTML code from the previous blog into the one you’ve just created. That means you’ve copied the design of the last issue exactly without including the posts. In Blogger this is easy, as follows…
    1. Go to the Design tab in a previous blog and click Edit HTML
    2. Click anywhere inside the Edit Template box where you can see the HTML code
    3. Press keys Ctrl and A to highlight all the HTML code
    4. Press keys Ctrl and C to copy the code
    5. Now go to the blog you’ve just created, and to the Design tab
    6. Click anywhere inside the Edit Template box where you can see the HTML code
    7. Press keys Ctrl and A to highlight all the HTML code
    8. Press keys Ctrl and V to paste the HTML code from the previous blog
    9. Click Save Template at the bottom of the Edit Template box
    10. The design of your new blog should now look the same as the previous one
  • Create the Welcome or Home page
    If the newsletter is on behalf of your organisation this will normally be the Chairman's bit. In Live Writer you should find yourself in New by default. Make the Post Title ‘Welcome’, click in the body window and copy (right click and copy) the text you’ve been given straight in. You can then edit the contents for grammar and add an image. Remember to periodically Save Draft if it takes you a while to come to the finished article.

    If writing directly in Blogger the process is almost identical. Click New Post and remember to periodically Save Now.

    In both programmes you can periodically Preview what you’ve created so far to check it looks OK.

    When you’ve finished the article you can choose the publish date that’ll be shown to readers at the bottom of the page… in Blogger that’s under Post options. Then publish the post.
  • Create the rest of the pages
    Follow the same process for all the other content using a separate post for each article. However, make sure you set the publication date for a day earlier than that set for the Welcome page. This will ensure the Welcome page is always presented to readers first when they access the newsletter.

    The best idea is to decide the order you want the articles to appear in the Contents section, the Welcome page being first, and then to date each article with a different date, the Welcome page being the latest, what will effectively be article two being one day earlier, article three being two days earlier etc etc. This makes things a bit easier in the next section and the newsletter won’t show these dates anyway.
  • Create the Contents section
    First of all let’s ensure those dates mentioned above don’t actually show in your newsletter…
    1. In Blogger go to the Design tab and under the box headed Blog Posts, click Edit
    2. Firstly set Number of posts on main page to 1 page so only the Welcome page shows to new readers
    3. Next, untick the boxes beside the date, posted by and time
    4. Scroll down and click Save

    Now let’s create the Contents section. You should still be in the Design tab and to the right of the Blog Posts box you’ll see Add a Gadget. Click that and do the following…

    1. In the Add a Gadget box that pops up, scroll down to Text and click the + button
    2. A box entitled Configure Text appears, in the title box enter ‘Contents’
    3. Now go to the newsletter you’ve created on-line
    4. Click the title and then copy the web address appearing at the top of the web page, it’ll be something like…
    5. Return to the Configure Text box and paste the web address in
    6. Of course you don’t want it to appear like the above example in the Contents readers will see, so click Edit HTML and look for the bit of text before </a> and after “>… in the example I’ve given the text you’re looking for is as highlighted below…
      <a href=""></a>
    7. Replace that text with what you want to appear in the Contents section, for example…
      <a href="">Welcome</a>
    8. Click Rich Text and you should now see the entry showing as Welcome, click your return button to go to the next line ready for another entry
    9. Go back to your newsletter web page and click Older Posts at the bottom of the Welcome page until you come to the next article in he Contents sequence
    10. Repeat steps 4. to 9. above until you’ve added all the articles under Contents, each time looking under Edit HTML for the web address you’ve just added and replacing the text between “> and </a> with a more appropriate description

With each entry you’ll need to be careful about the text you select to replace when in Edit HTML. As you add more and more Content entries the mass of HTML code can seem a bit daunting… but if you just add sequentially and then look in Edit HTML at the bottom of the code for the entry you’ve just added all should be well!

Whatever the actual title of each article, the Contents entries look snappier if they’re short enough to fit on a single line when the newsletter is seen by readers. How much space you’ve got depends on the width your blog and the side bar are set to. You can adjust this in Blogger under the Design tab, click Template Designer, and under Layout you’ll see an option to Adjust width.

While you’re there, you might also want to look at some of the other options under the Designer tab. For example, why not try out a few of the really attractive Templates? Note… the changes mentioned under Designer qualify for the earlier definition of tweaking under ‘2. Create the publication issue’.

Additions to consider

Within Blogger you can consider adding other Gadgets to the side bar. Try adding a Link List and call it ‘Useful links’. Even better, why not add a Poll to get an on-line survey of readers’ views?

You can also add functionality from external suppliers. Some of your readers may prefer to print articles to read them, so make that easy by adding a Print Friendly button.

One thing you’ll certainly want to do is get an idea how many people are reading your newsletter, how many pages they’re reading, how long they stay reading, where they’re from, what days you get most readers etc etc. Do all this by getting a SiteMeter account to monitor your site.

Best of luck!

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